Barbados is among 13 countries named in a new report released by Interpol on Monday saying that hundreds of suspected victims of modern slavery were rescued in a major crackdown on human traffickers in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
According to Interpol, the 350 potential victims of sexual exploitation and forced labour were discovered and 22 people arrested this month in an Interpol-led swoop on countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Belize, Brazil, Curacao, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands and Venezuela.
Interpol, the global police organization, said men, women and children were discovered working in nightclubs, farms, mines, factories and open-air markets, having been lured across borders by traffickers targeting desperate and vulnerable people with promises of a better life.
“What traffickers don’t advertise are the working conditions their victims will be subjected to once their final destination is reached,” Cem Kolcu of Interpol said in a statement, adding “during this operation, we identified women being forced to work out of spaces no bigger than coffins, for example”.
According to Interpol, in Guyana, young women were found selling sex next to remote gold mines from which they could not escape.
“Isolated locations make it difficult for officers to avoid detection,” said Diana O’Brien, Guyana’s assistant director of public prosecutions, explaining that often, by the time they can act on intelligence, traffickers have moved their victims.
Interpol’s executive director of police services, Tim Morris, said in the case of St Vincent and the Grenadines, where Asians at a factory were stripped of their passports and freedom, “to all intents and purposes, you enslave the person”.
The Interpol operation, the culmination of 30 months of preparation, allowed for social services and charities to conduct interviews and provided support to victims.
Traffickers target vulnerable people seeking to cross borders for work or a better life, or even moving from a poorer to a richer region in their own countries.